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SARS stopped from seizing Lesotho-registered car, but . . .

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Staff Reporter

Driving a foreign-registered vehicle on South African roads without a valid import permit could land you in trouble with the law, like a Free State businessman recently found out.

Joaquim Alves, from Ficksburg in the eastern part of the province, can however count himself lucky after the courts thwarted – on a technicality – the state’s attempts to seize his car, a second-hand Nissan Serena station wagon.

The Free State High Court last week dismissed with costs an appeal lodged by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) against a court order to release the vehicle in question to the owner.

The Lesotho-registered car was first impounded by customs officials on April 25 2019 at a joint roadblock with the traffic department in the Ficksburg area after the driver, one Ms Jansen, failed to produce an import permit as is required by law when a South African citizen who resides in South Africa owns and/or drives an imported second-hand vehicle.

She claimed she had borrowed the vehicle from Alves, who reportedly owns a car rental company called Euro Fleet Services in Lesotho.

While the customs officials were in the process of issuing to Jansen a detention notice as well as a letter requesting documents in order to assist SARS to establish whether the vehicle was duly entered for importation, Alves arrived and unlawfully retrieved the car from the municipal premises where it was going to be kept.

He argued that he was under the impression that “by virtue of the Southern African Union Agreement, whenever he travels between Lesotho and South Africa, he is not required to comply with any other requirements than producing his passport and having it stamped at the border post”.

Alves was then arrested on a theft charge and released on bail after appearing in the Ficksburg Magistrates Court on May 6 2019.

The vehicle was now held by the South African Police Service (SAPS) as an item relevant to the charge.

On July 24 2019, the criminal case was withdrawn upon which the police handed the vehicle – which they had held for approximately two-and-a-half months – back to SARS and not to the owner.

Alves then launched an urgent court application, on 7 August, seeking an order to get his car released to him.

He won the case, as the court ruled that SARS had failed to finalise its investigations in reasonable time.

SARS was ordered to return the vehicle within 48 hours of the order of the court as well as to pay the costs of the application.

But SARS held on to the vehicle while appealing.

Leave to appeal was granted on September 19 and, eight days later, SARS gave notice to Alves of the findings in its investigation and its intent to forfeit the vehicle in question to the state.

On October 14, the customs authority notified him of the final forfeiture of the vehicle to the state.

In the appeal case, the relief sought by SARS was to have the orders granted by the court a quo set aside and substituted with one dismissing Alves’ application with costs.

The customs authority also wanted Alves to be ordered to pay the appellants’ legal costs.

The respondent opposed the appeal on two primary grounds: “In the main, that this appeal be dismissed with costs for mootness; and in the alternative, that this appeal be dismissed with costs on the merits.”

In law, mootness arises when there is no longer an actual controversy between the parties to a court case, and any ruling by the court would have no actual, practical impact.

After adjudicating the matter on the heads of argument, Judge M Opperman dismissed the appeal, with Judge AF Jordaan and Judge MA Mathebula concurring.

The bench ordered each party to pay its own costs.

“The judgment a quo (judgment from which the appeal was taken) did not amend the law in any form or manner,” Judge Opperman noted in his ruling.

“It merely, on the facts that prevailed, found the period of the detainment of the vehicle for investigations to have been delayed to such an extent that it affected the . . . constitutional right of the respondent.”

While the latest ruling came as a huge relief to Alves – and probably also gave hope to many other South Africans in a similar predicament – the court did not strip SARS of its powers to impound imported vehicles or goods found without the relevant documents.

Judge Opperman noted that Alves’ vehicle had been “lawfully confiscated and later lawfully detained by the SAPS and SARS respectively”.

“It is important to emphasise what the court did not find,” he said.

“The court did not find that the detention of the vehicle was illegitimate, unreasonable or arbitrary but for the further and continued detention after the order a quo.

“The court did not find any illegal conduct perpetrated by SARS or any of their officials nor by the SAPS or any of their officials.

“The court did not rule that the conduct of the respondent was proper and legal or condoned it in any manner.”

The judge also said the ruling did not exclude criminal prosecution of the respondent.

“The court did not rule against any future action by SARS to seize and order forfeiture of the vehicle in accordance with the law and to serve justice and the administration of justice,” he said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Desiree Arendse

    February 23, 2022 at 11:28 am

    Hi my Lesotho registered vehicle was seized by Saps Cape Town Central Vehicle Safeguarding Section in Bellville, Cape Town on the 25th January 2022 when I went to them and asked the procedure to change my numberplate to CA/Cape Town. I was told that even though my car is registered in my name in Lesotho, these cars are not allowed to be driven on South Africa’s roads and they seized it. I was told that they are suppose to put me in jail also coz these cars don’t belong here whilst I have friends here in Cape Town also driving Lesotho numberplate cars. What am I to do now coz I am a 57 year old unemployed single woman and can’t afford a lawyer. Please give me advise coz I saw its OFFICIAL for us to drive legally on S.A.Roads without a permit coz Lesotho falls under SACU.

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Two Free State women allegedly killed by ‘druggie’ sons

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SHOCKING MURDER . . . A 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs

Two women from Mangaung have allegedly been attacked and killed in two separate incidents by their own sons believed to be using drugs.

In the latest incident which happened in Kagisanong along Masike Street at the weekend, a 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs.

Police spokesperson for Mangaung Metro Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said in the woman died on the scene from the stab wounds.

“The victim had visible multiple stab wounds on the head and body,” he said, adding the matter was reported by the brother to the deceased, who was also attacked by the suspect who is now in police custody.

Covane said the complainant informed the police that the suspect is believed to be using drugs and had asked his now deceased mother for money to buy drugs but she told him that she didn’t have money.

“The suspect got angry, went out of the house, came back with a piece of iron and stabbed the deceased with it several times,” he explained.

“When he was done, he turned to the complainant and also stabbed him on the chest.”

Covane said the uncle survived the attack but the daring suspect locked them inside the house and had to wait until Friday morning to get help.

The suspect was later traced and arrested by the police.
He is expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court this Monday facing charges of murder and attempted murder.

In a similar case, a 42-year-old man will be applying for bail at the Botshabelo Magistrates Court on the same day after allegedly strangling to death his 71-year-old mother last Sunday, August 7, 2022 in the E-Section, Botshabelo.

The suspect is also said to history of substance abuse.

Free State acting provincial police commissioner, Major General Modise, condemned the killing of the two elderly women. – Staff Reporter

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Magashule loses ConCourt bid to reverse ANC suspension

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APPLICATION DISMISSED . . . The Constitutional Court says Ace Magashule has no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension as ANC secretary-general

Former Free State premier Ace Magashule has lost his latest court bid to have his suspension as ANC secretary-general lifted.

He had approached the Constitutional Court seeking to have his temporary ousting from Luthuli House reversed.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, the apex court said Magashule had no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension.

“The Constitutional Court has considered the application for condonation and the application for leave to appeal. It has concluded that, although there are no reasonable prospects of success on the merits of the application for leave to appeal, the delay in bringing the application for leave to appeal is minimal,” the court said.

Magashule first approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to challenge his suspension, but the matter was dismissed with costs.

He subsequently approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which dismissed the application in January 2022, prompting him to take up his case with the Constitutional Court.

Magashule was suspended from the ANC in May 2021 because of the party’s step-aside rule.

The rule requires ANC members facing criminal charges to step aside while their court cases are under way.

Magashule is facing corruption charges linked to the Free State asbestos corruption scandal. – Staff Reporter

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Municipal manager facing tender fraud charges granted bail

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THE ACCUSED . . . Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha is out on bail

Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, 49, was on Friday released on a bail of R500 000 by the Phuthaditjhaba Magistrates Court after he was arrested by The Hawks for fraud, corruption and Contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleges that he allegedly awarded a contract of R58 million to Kill Crime Security Company in 2020 without following proper procurement processes.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Mothamaha allegedly signed a service level agreement on May 19, 2020, appointing the company to render security services to the municipality for a period of three months without following procurement processes.

“The municipality continued to pay Kill Crime Security Company for almost two years without a contract,” said Shuping.

He said Mothamaha was supposed to appear with his co-accused, father and daughter who are the owners of Kill Crime Security, Thabiso, 55, and Dimakatso Sekhosana, 29, on Monday after they were instructed by The Hawks to hand themselves over on Sunday, but he failed to do so.

The Sekhosanas appeared on Monday facing similar charges and were released on bail of R150 000 each.

Part of Mothamaha’s bail conditions are that he must not enter the offices of the municipality, not interfere with the investigations nor intimidate witnesses.

The case was postponed to September 30 for further investigations. – Staff Reporter

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